When the local church functions as it should—according to the New Testament—it reaches out, confronts sin, loves people, preaches the Gospel, brings the lost to Christ, and raises up mature disciples to follow Him. When it doesn’t work, it makes a mess.
And it doesn’t work when its members are not fully committed to Christ and to the local church as He intends it. The church is not a country club, an amusement park, or a cultural obligation. And yet it is so easy for church to devolve into something else.
A couple of weeks ago I received an interesting e-mail update from The Berean Call talking about youth ministry. The text of the message can be found here, but it is basically a reprinting of excerpts of a USA Today article called “‘Forget pizza parties,’ teens tell churches.”
The gist of the article is that the entertainment-based ministry models that have been widely employed in youth ministries for the last 30 years or so are no longer working. Pizza parties, games, and stupid stunts do not seem to be as effective in attracting kids to church in 2010 as they may have been in the past. I think there may be a few reasons for this.
1. We don’t give Christian youth enough credit. We do them a great disservice when we treat Christian teenagers as though they are mindless zombies who need constant entertainment, as though they can’t be trusted to follow Christ unless we trick them to come to worship services with the promise of a three-ring circus, or as though they are just flat-out too dumb to understand the Scriptures. And we do the local church a great disservice as well. We take those who, by the very nature of their age, could be (with proper teaching and discipleship) among the most energetic and zealous Christian witnesses, and ship them off to the icy wasteland of a spiritual Siberia. Whether we do this because we think that they’re capable of no more, or because we’d rather have someone babysit them than take the time to disciple them ourselves, we are wrong. The Bible says to young men and women,
“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (I Timothy 4:12-13, KJV).
I fear that too often we do look down on people on the basis of their youth.
Now, there are a couple of things I want to point out:
- a) I do not believe that all church youth groups are like this—but I have heard my share of stories about ones who are—; and,
- b) I do not think it is wrong for young people, or anyone else in the church, to have fun. My youth group days were some of the best days of my life. We enjoyed being together, we fellowshipped, and we had fun. But we were also taught the Scriptures. We were taught to minister and serve. We were taught that Christianity and being part of the local church were serious commitments. And we were not taught that church was there for our entertainment. I am grateful for people like Mike Mobly, my youth pastor during my high school years, who see the potential in young Christians and take the time to invest in and disciple them.
I can see by my big clock on the wall that I’ve done enough writing for one night. I’ll be continuing with this topic in the next few days. I think there is a lot we can learn about commitment, and it doesn’t just apply to youth ministry. Stay tuned.